Recently Read Books

  • A Delicate Truth- John Le Carre (fiction)
  • Perfect - Rachel Joyce (Fiction)
  • The Expats - Chris Pavone (Fiction)
  • An Event in Autumn - Henning Mankel (Fiction)
  • Winter in Madrid - C.J.Sansom (Fiction)
  • The Brothers - John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles - non-fiction
  • LIfe Among Giants - Bill Roorbach (Novel)
  • Empty Mansions - Bill Dedman (non-fiction)
  • Woodrow Wilson (non fiction)
  • Lawrence in Arabia (Non-Fiction)
  • In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helpren (Fiction)
  • Lesson in French - Hilary Reyl (fiction)
  • Unbroken- Laura Hillenbrand (Non-Fiction)
  • Venice, A New History- Thomas Madden - (Non- Fiction)
  • Life is a Gift - Tony Bennett Autobiography
  • The First Counsell - Brad Meltzer (Fiction)
  • Destiny of the Republic - President James Garfield non-fiction by Candice Millard
  • The Last Lion (volume III)- William Manchester and Paul Reid (non-fiction, Winston Churchill)
  • Yellowstone Autumn -W.D. Wetherell (non-fiction about turning 55 and fishing in Yellowstone)
  • Everybody was Young- (non-fiction Paris in the 1920's)
  • Scorpion - (non fiction US Supreme Court)
  • Supreme Power - Jeff Shesol (non-fiction)
  • Zero day by David Baldacci ( I read all of Baldacci's Books)
  • Northwest Angle - William Kent Krueger (fiction - I have read 5 or 6 books by this author)
  • Camelot's Court-Insider the Kennedy Whitehouse- Robert Dallek
  • Childe Hassam -Impressionist (a beautiful book of his paintings)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dispute Resolution and Other Marital Interactions

Like all couples, the Lovely Sharon and I disagree from time to time.  Some of the issues we disagree on are small and unimportant, others are bigger.  Although the Lovely Sharon is quiet, she stands her ground and won't roll over from what she believes is correct.  Some times we compromise in a dispute and sometimes we don't.  Some couples say don't ever go to bed mad.  If that were our rule we may be  awake for days.  We have finally come up with a proper way to settle disputes:

I am pleased to announced I have won one of our last three disagreements.  This is a significantly better percentage than our prior dispute resolution method where I won none of our disagreements.

The Little Piano Shop on the Left Bank

Sometimes I forget how I became aware of a particular book.  It is easy to recall if the book I am reading is on the New York Times best seller list.  I regularly read the New York Times Sunday Book Review.  I also get book suggestions from Harper’s magazine or the Atlantic Monthly magazine, or Vanity Fair magazine.  These magazines all have good recommendations for books. Sometimes I will be wandering through the library and will spot an older book, I will read a page or two and take it home with me. I keep a stack of books in the Bud Cave.  Usually there are 10 to 20 or so books in the stack. When the Lovely Sharon is in Salt Lake this stack causes her angst. She is a very neat and orderly person and her vision of my Bud Cave book stack is that it is a disorderly pile of books creating an eyesore in the Bud Cave.  For me, my stack is like an old friend.  I add to it, I take some books away.  Sometimes I look through it just to see what it contains. Some books have been there for a year or more. Others were added more recently.  Most have not been read but there are a few in the stack that I have read but intend to peruse again so they remain in the stack.
Sometimes I have find a book in my Bud Cave stack that I don’t remember buying or if I do remember buying it, I don’t remember why I bought it or how I became aware of it.  This is especially true of those books that were written more than five or six years ago.  A couple of weeks back, I pulled out a trade paper back out of my stack.  The book was called The Little Piano Shop on the Left Bank.  The book is non-fiction and was published in 2001.  The copy I had was obviously used and the pages a little yellow.  I assume I purchased it online from Amazon but I am not certain.  I read it over a week or so while I was reading some other books and tied up on other matters.

 I loved the book.  It was written by T.E Carhart, an American who, at least at the time he wrote the book, lived in Paris with his wife and children.  Most days Mr. Carhart walked his two young children to school and he would walk past a shop called “Desforges Pianos”.  Carhart had played the piano in his youth and was intrigued by the shop.  One thing I learned is that in Paris the proper word for such a shop is “Atelier”.  I had to look up the definition of atelier and learned that Atelier is the French word for "workshop", and in English is used principally for the workshop of an artist in the fine or decorative arts.

Initially, the owner of the atelier was standoffish and would not allow Carhart beyond a curtained off portion of the atelier.  Carhart continued to visit the atelier and eventually met Luc, a worker in the shop.  Carhart informed Luc he was considering buying a piano. Luc informed him that in order to be a customer he had to be recommended by another customer.  Obviously a very odd requirement for a commercial establishment.  Ultimately Carhart was recommended by an acquaintance and was allowed beyond the curtain to an area that had dozens of pianos of all types and kinds.  The atelier was used to buy and sell pianos but also to repair and, in some instances, rebuild the pianos.  They were stacks of wood and stacks of piano parts around the room.  There were upright pianos, baby grands, medium size grands and concert hall sized grands.  The pianos were black, white, brown, natural wood and many other colors.

During the period written about in the book, Luc bought the shop from the owner.  After Luc became the owner of the atelier, Carhart and Luc’s friendship grew as Carhart’s visits continued.  Pianos would arrive at the shop, after some work they would be sold by Luc and would leave the shop.  The relationship of the men grew over time as they discussed individual pianos that arrived and left and they discussed life in general.  The discussion about the pianos, the description of the inner workings of the pianos, the strings, the sound board, the pedals, the type of wood used was surprisingly interesting.  As I read the book I could picture the cluttered workshop and smell the sawdust in the air. 

Carhart eventually purchased a piano from the shop after an emotional struggled as to what piano was the right piano for his apartment.  He started playing again, took lessons, attended master piano instruction classes and a good part of his life came to revolve around pianos, lessons and music.

This sounds like a strange book and a strange subject but I am fond of books that teach, that have passion and that are well written.  Give this book a try if you can find a copy.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Old Pals

Two days ago I was sitting in my law office contemplating how to word a particular concept for a contract for a business transaction when my receptionist called me and said I had a phone call.  Much to my surprise and delight, my old pal Mike was on the phone. I am getting to the age where all my pals are old pals regardless of how long I have known them.  However, this old pal is truly an old pal. We have been friends since we were both15 or 16 years of age, almost 45 years. We played high school football together, we sang in the madrigals and we were in student government together.   Mike was calling from the airport in Minneapolis and was on his way to Salt Lake.  Mike’s daughter was graduating from BYU and he was on his way to attend the ceremony.  He was calling to see if we might meet for lunch or dinner during his three day stay in Utah.  We both checked our calendars and settled on meeting Friday night for dinner.  We agreed to meet at Hidden Valley Country Club.  Last night, the appointed night for our dinner, I was just leaving my house when my phone rang.  It was Mike.  He told me he was on his way from BYU but traffic was heavy and he would be late.  I told him no problem I would see him at the Club when he arrived.

I left for the Club.  When I walked into the grill room I saw friends Pat and Teach sitting at the far end of the grill with their son so I walked over to greet them.  As I was talking to them, I became aware of someone very small at my feet.  I looked down and there was my beautiful granddaughter Kendall Marie.  She was looking up smiling at me. Kendall is going into her third year and she is a doll.  Seeing her so unexpectantly was like getting a special Christmas present.  I was overjoyed.  I looked around and spotted my daughter-in-law Ali sitting at a table with friends.   Eventually, I made my way to a table where I sat waiting for Mike.  The grill was packed and so may golf friends saw me and came to my table to say hello and give me a hug.  All of them asked about the Lovely Sharon and I told them she was still in Palm Desert.

 As I waited for Mike, Kendall kept coming over to my table to sit on my knee.  She wanted me to put some of the bottled table snacks in my hand which I did.  Then she would pick up each little spicy peanut, sunflower seed or whatever else was in the mix and eat it.  These snacks are good but are salty and spicy. After eating 7 or 8 of them she told me she needed a drink of my water.  We sat and talked while she was eating the snacks.  Then she would say she was going back to see her mommy.  She left my knee and was gone.  But within 5 or 6 minutes she was back on my knee and we proceeded to repeat me pouring a few snackies in my hand, her eating them one at a time, and then me giving her a sip of water. This was as much fun as an old guy could have.  I could have done that all night long.  You grandpa’s out there know exactly what I mean. The simple things in life truly are the best things

 Mike finally arrived and we greeted each other with the embrace of old friends.  I last saw Mike in June 2011 when we both attended our 40th class reunion.  It was so nice to see him again.  Mike is a wonderful fellow.  He was always serious about things (in a good mature way), he is smart, he set goals, and he accomplished goals. After high school Mike went to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and then flew jets in the Air Force for several years before becoming a commercial airline pilot; first for Northwest Airlines and now for Delta.  Like all of us he has had his bumps in life but has survived and is the same great fellow I knew back in high school.

We spent about three hours together talking about old times, new time, current times and life in general.  As we sat together, a host of my golf friends came over to our table to greet us.  I introduced them to Mike and we would all talk together for a few minutes.  I enjoyed it and I think Mike enjoyed it. One of my friends took a picture of Mike and I and as I was sitting in the Bud Cave this morning writing this blog entry, she sent me an email with the photo.  Here it is.  Feel free to print it and carry it in your wallet or frame it for your wall.

 As the evening ended, Mike and I gave each other a goodbye embrace, expressed love and friendship for each other and finally said goodbye.  He flies back to Minneapolis this morning.  Who knows what the future may bring and I wondered if, and hoped that, we would meet again someday in the not too distance future.  I have written a number of essays in this blog about family and friends.  Their importance continues to grow for me as I get older.  I realize how much these relationships mean to me, how much they enrich my life.  I decided years ago that when I see a friend or a family member I am going to give them a hug and tell how glad I am to see them. Last night was night of friendly embraces, laughter and discussions with Mike, with men and women golf pals and granddaughter, Kendall Marie.  What a night, perfect.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Written Easter

I woke up at 4:30 am in David City. Today is Easter and my travel day back to Salt Lake City.  Although I was awake I stayed in bed for 10 or 15 minute thinking about the week I had just spent with the Lovely Sharon in Nebraska.  It was a good week.  During the week I thought about life, family and friends.  I committed to be a better person, a better husband, a better son, a better father and a better friend.  That is always a goal of mine, to be better.  This week reinforced that goal in my mind.  Sometimes it is easy to not work at being better.  This week was a good reminder for me to try to be better.

This week also made me want to stop and smell the roses more often.  It is is so easy to get caught up in work and the daily grind of life.  This week made me realize how important it is to go take food and puzzels to the Senior Center, to take flowers to the assisted living center and to drive off the main road to Bruno and Abie, Nebraska.  Each of those actions is just an example of doing those things that are not what we normally do.  To give of myself in an manner that I do not typically do.. To get out of the car at the old church and walk in and visualize 100 years of people sitting in the pews seeking God’s help and forgiveness.

At 5:30 a.m. I showered, packed my bag and kissed the Lovely Sharon goodbye.  When I left David City it was still dark, there was a full moon in the western sky and it was a chilly 29 degrees. It was time to go home but I felt a pang of sadness as I slowly drove through town not knowing if I would ever be back. I thought about my mother-in-law and my father-in-law and the three fine children they had raised, one of which is my own dear wife.  They were quiet people, simple people in the most beautiful of ways.  It was my absolute pleasure to know them and to share a little of their life.

The main county road through David City is County Road 15.  I drove down this road under the speed limit not wanting to leave the town or the Lovely Sharon but it was only three miles to route 92 which led directly to Omaha and my plane back to Salt Lake.

There was not much traffic going either west or east on Route 92. As I headed east in the dark, I noticed that each farm house I passed had a single light pole in the  area between the farm house and the barn or equipment shed.  A single light pole with one light helping to guide the residents in their short journey from the house to the barn.   It occurred to me that sometimes we only need one light to help us on our journey through life.  That light maybe a person or a concept or just a kind word from a someone.  Some of the farmhouses were dark inside and some had a light on that I could see through the window as I passed on Route 92.  Families getting ready for Easter.  Maybe going to a church service, or to a dinner with extended family at a park or in a back yard somewhere.  The Lovely Sharon is going to Mass in David City.  After that brother Bob and Amy will pick her up to travel to Lincoln for dinner with brother Ed and Diana.  

For me I flew from Omaha to Minneapolis and I am writing this on a plane from Minneapolis to Salt Lake City.

Happy Easter.

David City

The changes in plans and the rhythms of life can be abrupt and unsettling. I had planned to spend most Easter week in Palm Desert with the Lovely Sharon. Our plans included golf, a couple of parties and Easter dinner with friends. Instead, we spent the week in David City, Nebraska, a lovely small Midwest town of 2,500 people.  The Lovely Sharon’s beloved father passed away early Sunday morning, April 1st.  Sharon flew to Nebraska from California on Monday and I left Salt Lake City for Nebraska on Tuesday.  I arrived in David City shortly before Tuesday’s viewing and Rosary.  The funeral was held Wednesday at David City’s beautiful St. Mary’s Church. The funeral was a lovely service with meaningful Bible readings, a soft spoken, a plain spoken homily and a beautiful singing of Ave Maria.  Family member Steve recited thoughts and memories of the family.

After the cemetery service and a meal for friends and family, the family gathered back at the family home where stories were told and memories shared. Sharon’s mother and father are now both gone but their lives and lessons remain alive in Sharon and her brothers.

This was my fifth trip to David City since I have known the Lovely Sharon.  This trip felt different to me than the previous trips.  I don’t know why it felt different but I felt more connected with her family, including extended family and I felt more connected to rural Nebraska. In the days following the funeral there was much to be done by Sharon and her brothers.  There were estate matters to discuss among the family, and a meeting with the estate lawyer.  There were thank you notes to be written for those who had generously provided flowers, food and other offerings.  Sharon and her brothers started the sad task of cleaning out her mother and father’s home; deciding what to keep, what to donate and what to toss out. 

In an effort to be somewhat helpful while Sharon and her brothers made decisions and worked on the house, I ran a few errands under the direction of the Lovely Sharon.  I took a load of food to the David City Senior Center, a long building in the center of town where Sharon’s father had played cards, ate lunch and spent time with friends.  I spoke with several seniors who expressed affection for Sharon’s father remarking he was a fine fellow and a good card partner.  I took several large garbage sacks jammed-full of expired foodstuffs to the landfill.  I took fresh flower arrangements to the St Joseph assisted living facility.  Hopefully the beautiful flowers brought some happiness to those folks. We shipped Sharon’s mom’s dishes to Salt Lake and we took 12 or 13 bags of clothes to Good Will.

On Thursday, I drove a huge, blue New Hollander tractor on the family farm.  I had never been on a tractor and here I was driving one through the fields.  Sharon’s brother, Bob, backed the tractor out of the equipment building and then I took over under his direction.  When I drove back to the equipment building I had assumed and hoped that Bob would take the controls and drive the tractor into the equipment building, but he instructed me to drive through the huge door without crashing into it and without hitting other farm equipment stored in the building.  I was nervous as I slowly maneuvered the large tractor through the door, around green farm equipment to its final resting place. With good instructions from Bob, I disengaged the transmission, reduced the throttle and finally turned the key to stop the engine.  It was fun.

We walked around the yard at the old family farmhouse.  I took a few pictures of Sharon, her brothers and the farm.

On Friday I went to the senior city a second time to drop off 12 or so jigsaw puzzles.  When I walked in to the senior center I was pleased to see an elderly gentleman putting a jigsaw puzzle together.  As soon as I entered music filled the air.  I had walked into something I had never seen before.  There sitting before me on taupe colored metal folding chairs aligned in a circle were 10 men and women each playing an accordion. The accordion players familiar polka music was accompanied by the um pah pah of a tuba. Accompanying the music was the rhythm of a set of drums.  I had to look twice to full appreciate the 80 something year old lady sitting astride a stool with her right foot pounding the base drum and her hands deftly handling drum sticks attacking the snare drum and the top hat drum.  I stood and listened for two songs.  I could not quit smiling in appreciation as I finally left the senior center. 

I volunteered to mail the thank you noted. I went to the post office to buy stamps, affix the stamps to the envelopes and mail them.  I arrived at 11:00 and found the post office open but the counter closed until 11:30.  I meandered through the town until 11:30 and went back to the post office.  I had some 50 envelops to mail.  The post office desk clerk said she would help me put the stamps on the envelopes so we split the envelopes and talked as we put the stamps on the envelopes.  When we finished, I gave her my pile which she joined with pile and we said good bye.  I don’t believe I have ever had a postal clerk help me put stamps on a stack of envelopes.  It was nice.  It was small town.  When I told the Lovely Sharon about it she wondered aloud why we had not asked the clerk to help write the thank you notes.

Sharon and her brother Ed spent most of Thursday and Friday working together at the house.  I tried to stay out of their way so they could have some one on one time together. Brother and Sister working side by side in their parents’ house. I know they both enjoyed being together

Friday night we drove to Columbus and had dinner with Bob and Amy and Steve and Carol (Sharon’s cousins).  Dinner was superb and the conversation interesting.  What a wonderful evening. We talking about pie making, we talked about books and book clubs and we talked about farming and the farming co-op of which Bob is the general manager. It was after 10:00 pm by the time we arrived back in David City.

I started the coffee brewing at 6:15 Saturday morning.  I tried to be quiet as the Lovely Sharon had fallen asleep on the couch in the family room and spent the night on the couch but the kitchen light and the sounds of my early morning movements in a quiet house woke her up at 6:30.  I poured her a mug of coffee and made us scrambled eggs and toast.  I am pretty certain that she would have preferred to sleep a little longer.  She worked a little more in the house but we finally left the house around 11:00 for one more drop off at the Senior Center (my third trip in three days) and we dropped off some donations at the St. Mary Church rectory.

There was something I wanted to do.  I wanted to visit the towns of Bruno (population 112) and Abie (population 108) located 12 and 15 miles from David City.  These are old, I mean really old, country towns.  It is sad to see the abandoned banks and shops in each of these towns. Many of these buildings are almost 100 years old.  The first time I visited Nebraska with Sharon, about 15 of us went to Bruno to a bar for dinner.  I think it was the only business open in Bruno.  We passed the bar on our Saturday journey and then drove through a few of the gravel streets of town.  Although there a reported four more people in Bruno compared to Abie, there seemed to be a little more life in Abie than Bruno.  A little more life, not a lot more.  Bruno had a pretty Catholic church from 1917.  For a town of 108, the church was truly lovely inside and out.  We spent 10 minutes or so in the Church.

Bruno Shed

  Abie Church

After Abie we back tracked to Bruno and a few miles from Bruno we turned off the road toward Prague.  Prague (population 346) is gigantic compared to Abie and Bruno.   We drove through Prague and stopped at St John the Baptist Church.  The Church was relatively new (circa 1983).  We walked into the Church and spent a few minutes looking around.  The parish priest saw us and visited with us for 15 minutes or.  He was a nice looking, friendly 45 year old man who new Sharon’s parents and her brother Bob.  We have a nice visit with him.  There was one of those “it’s is small world” moments when he told us his sister lived in Salt Lake City for a while. It took us 30 minutes or so to get back to David City.  It was a nice day.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Hawk

Yesterday was one of those glorious blue sky, sunny days in Salt Lake.  The temperature reached an almost summer-like 80 degrees; far above normal.  In the morning I worked in the yard for an hour and a half or so.  As I raked and bagged leaves and limbs in the wild part of our yard, I became aware of movement on the still bare trees above me. A hawk, a large hawk, a magnificent hawk, 30 feet or so above me.  He was in a tree which was some 50 feet from me on the other side of our back yard creek.  The limb he was on ran almost horizontal to the ground.  I stopped my work and watched him. There was great motion as he seemed to be cleaning his feathers with his beak.  Then he sat quietly on the limb, his head moving from side to side as though he was looking for something.  Was he looking for food, a mate or was he just enjoying the day as I was.  After a few minutes he flew off of the limb upward into the azure sky.  I lost sight of him through all of the trees.  This area is a wild area with standing and fallen trees and limbs on both sides of the creek that meanders through the neighborhood. At one time, the Lovely Sharon owned all of the land I could see but she has sold off much of it leaving us with an acre or so.  It is not unusual to see hawks in the yard.  One year they built a nest and hatched their babies.

 I went back to work for a few minutes but stopped again to look up, hoping to spot the hawk.  He had not come back to the horizontal limb that seemed to be a perfect perch for him.  So I carefully looked at each of the dozens of trees around me.  These trees are still bare.  In the summer there are so many leaves it would be hard to spot the hawk unless he was moving.  But today, if he was anywhere near, there was a good chance I could see him.  Finally, I saw him; high in a tree that was maybe 100 feet from me and 50 or more feet off the ground.  He was doing the same movement that he had been doing early in the closer tree.  Although I assumed he was cleaning himself, I don’t for certain what he was doing.  He flew off and landed again on the horizontal limb that was closer to me and that provided me a clear view of him. 

I was intrigued as I watched him.  I regretted that I did not have my camera to zoom in on him to see his eyes and beak close up and to save an image of him for all time. But I had a rake in my gloved hand and not my camera. 

I love to look at and take photos of birds but unfortunately, I know little about them.  I wished my niece’s husband Tim was with me to tell me about what kind of hawk I was watching.  Tim is a knowledgeable birder. He has him own birding website -  Tim would know about this bird.  For me, all I could do was to watch the hawk and admire its beauty.  I continued to watch until he again flew away. I looked through the trees for a sign of him but he was gone, at least for now.

I returned to my yard work but with less enthusiasm than I had before I had seen the hawk. A feeling of loneliness came over me and I wished the Lovely Sharon had been here working in the yard with me, watching the hawk with me but she is in Palm Desert and I am in Salt Lake.  I worked for maybe 20 more minutes and then headed back up to the house with my rake and clippers in hand.  After arriving at the downstairs back patio I put my tools away in the storage shed.  I took off my dirty shoes and entered the house.  I should have worked longer but watching the hawk made me want to go do something other than yard work so I quit working.  It was his fault.